Friday, December 2, 2011

Has Congress Simply Gone Batshit Crazy?

Sometimes you have to wonder…

But let me back up…

Imagine one of the following scenarios:

  • You are a novelist and you’re talking on the phone to your friend about an idea for your next book that involves an al-Qaeda terrorist plot; or
  • You’ve recently returned from an overseas business trip where you had a business meeting with a Middle-Eastern eastern man and wanted to buy equipment your company makes; or
  • Your church group makes arrangements to have a local Muslim imam come to speak to your church about events in the Middle East; or
  • Your ex-business partner, who is really good with Photoshop, posts on Facebook a picture of your head superimposed on the body of a terrorist holding a gun.

Now, imagine, that one day you hear a loud noise outside your front door and suddenly an Army tank rolls up into your front yard as flash-bang grenades are thrown into your house and a squad of the Army’s elite Delta Force charges in and takes you into custody … for suspicion of terrorism.

Now given that this is America you might almost be tempted to laugh at this situation. After all, the military has no jurisdiction to engage in law enforcement within the United States and, perhaps more importantly, as soon as you make your phone call to your lawyer and he sees the “evidence” gathered against you, this should all go away pretty quickly. Right?

Um, no. Not in our America. At least not anymore.

You see, Congress is so worried about the threat of terrorism that they are intending to pass legislation that requires that terrorism suspects be remanded to military custody and will condone the indefinite detention, without trial and without access to an attorney, of those so detained. That detention can continue until hostilities — in other words, the “war on terrorism” — has ended.

No due process. No right to confront your accuser. No right to a jury of your peers. No right to a trial or counsel. And maybe even no right to be free from torture or “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Maybe you’ll even get to spend time in sunny Guantanamo, Cuba.

President Obama has threatened to veto this bill (it is part of the 600+ page Defense Appropriations bill) if it comes to his desk. But just so that you realize that this bill is likely to pass and is not flying under the radar, just yesterday, a proposed amendment (sponsored by Sen. Feinstein [D-California]) to limit the indefinite detention of American citizens to only those American citizens captured outside of the United States failed by a vote of 55-45. Most (but not all) Democrats voted for the amendment; all but three Republicans voted against it.

I’ve heard over and over the fears that President Obama is a “dictator” or that he “plans to take away people’s guns”. I can’t understand how people who can express that fear can, at the same time, contemplate giving the military the power to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely and without trial.

Now go back to my original scenarios and let me add one more:

  • You are a member of the United States Congress (or even a candidate) and your platform includes proposals to do away with indefinite civilian detentions and to decrease the military’s budget. You know that this position is not popular in the military…

When you are taken into custody how will you prove that your arrest was politically motivated and based on trumped up or non-existent evidence? Remember, the military can hold you essentially forever without a trial, a lawyer, or the right to see the evidence against you.

If this bill passes, we are that much closer to being nothing more than a military dictatorship that pays lip service to democracy and civilian control. And we are that much closer to being a country that has a Constitution with important rights granted to its citizens … that are ignored.

Is indefinite detention by the military, without trial, the sort of nation that the Founding Fathers had when they signed the Declaration of Independence and later adopted the Constitution? No, I don’t think so either.

Call you members of Congress and tell them that you would prefer not to live in a country that permits its military to arrest and indefinitely detain people.

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